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Every food you buy has a shelf life, and the packaging for almost all these food items is marked with an expiration date.

There is a common misconception that any food not eaten by the date given on the packaging has immediately gone bad and needs to be tossed out.

But expiration dates are actually just guidelines for you to have a rough idea about when the peak quality of specific food items are, rather than how safe it is to eat.

Besides baby formula, which has a specific date that it must be used by, almost every other food item has some leeway when it comes to going off.

Here’s a list of common food items and how long you can safely eat them past their expiration date.

Eggs

Eggs last for three to five weeks past the expiry date on the carton ( Getty Images/iStockphoto)

No matter what the date printed on a carton of eggs, they are often safe to consume within three to five weeks of when you purchase them.

According to Kevin Murphy, food safety and sanitation expert and professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, the date on the carton is a good indicator of how fresh the eggs are.

He told Insider: “The closer you get to the date, the less fresh the eggs are going to be. But, just because you’ve hit that date or gone beyond it doesn’t mean that the eggs are necessarily bad.”

Hard-boiled eggs go bad sooner and can be safely consumed for up to a week if kept in the refrigerator.

If in doubt, always check to make sure if the egg has gone bad.

Do the float test – if an egg tilts upwards or even floats in water, it is old – or simply give it a sniff to see if there’s a sulphur smell coming from the eggs.

Milk

Most types of milk usually last up to one week after expiration date. However, it’s important to note that how long milk lasts depends on its fat content.

Non-fat milk lasts between seven and 10 days, while whole milk can be consumed five to seven days after the date on the carton. Non-diary milks – especially if unopened – can last up to a month after the expiry date.

Spoiled milk will be discoloured with a lumpy texture and sour odour. So keep an eye on the texture when you pour the milk and also give it a smiff to make sure it’s still good to use.

Bread

Packaged bread usually stays good for five to seven days past expiration date if stored properly at room temperature, according to Megan Wong, RD, a registered dietitian at AlgaeCal.

Make sure to store your bread in a cool, dry place. If you’d like to extend its shelf life beyond a few days, you can stick it in the freezer. This will keep the bread good for consumption for at least three months.

Always keep an eye out for mould on the bread – especially if you store it in moist environments – and if you start to see any blue-green blooms, throw out the bread and don’t eat it.

Pasta

Pasta lasts depending on whether it’s dry or fresh, uncooked pasta ( Getty Images)

Dry pasta can be kept for up to two years past the expiry date on the packet. However, fresh uncooked pasta – found usually in the refrigerated section of the supermarket – is only safe for consumption four to five days beyond the expiration date.

For cooked pasta – whether dry or fresh – you can eat it safely for up to seven days if it’s stored well in the fridge. It will last longer, between six and eight months, if stored in the freezer.

Cheese

Most types of cheese last beyond their expiration. Hard cheeses like parmesan have low moisture content, making it hard for bacteria to grow on it.

According to registered dietitian Sofia Norton, some of these cheeses may develop white or blue-green mould on the surface, but that doesn’t make it fit only for the bin.

She explained: “Simply scrape off these moulds or even cut the parts affected and your hard cheese is again safe to consume.”

For certain kinds of cheese like camembert and brie, white mould is quite normal, explained Gourmet Cheese Detective. However, coloured mould like orange, blue, and green varieties are not edible on these types of soft cheeses.

In blue cheeses, brighter moulds are okay, but only if it is spread evenly in a vein-pattern. Make sure it’s not concentrated in one spot on the surface of the cheese.

Cereal

Most dry breakfast cereals will stay fresh for between four and six months. Meanwhile, cooked cereals like oatmeal will only last for four to five days in the fridge once it’s been made.

If you leave the cereal box open, the most that can happen is that the cereals will go a bit stale, but you are not going to get sick from eating it.

Honey

Honey has a long shelf life but may spoil if introduced to moisture ( Getty Images)

In its natural form, honey has very low moisture so most bacteria don’t survive, meaning that honey has a very long shelf life.

Honey can spoil if introduced to moisture – even if absorbed from the atmosphere. However, just because a jar of honey forms crystals doesn’t mean it has spoiled.

The grainy texture may just be because the glucose molecules in the honey have separated from the water.

Raw meat, poultry and fish

Raw meat and poultry in the fridge can only last a few days. But if stored in the freezer it can last much longer.

Frozen ground meat lasts three to four months in the freezer while whole chicken or turkey lasts for more than a year.

FoodSafety.gov explained: “Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat.”

Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat.

Raw fish lasts six to nine months if frozen. Smoked fish lasts three to six months in the freezer, while commercially frozen fish will keep for 10 to 12 months if it isn’t allowed to thaw.

Unopened canned fish like tuna is safe to eat for between two to five years past the date on the can.

Dry ingredients

Dry ingredients like white flour, baking soda, salt, sugar and baking powder last a relatively long time since there’s no moisture for bacteria to grow.

Though they tend to remain safe to eat, don’t use any dry ingredient if it gives off any unnatural smells that might point towards a pest infestation.

Canned foods

Most canned foods have a long shelf life, especially vegetables, and soups are okay to eat a year or two after their expiry date.

Meanwhile, canned meats like corned beef or Spam will last even longer, between two and five years.

However, some highly acidic items like canned tomatoes and pineapple have shorter shelf lives.

Bagged veg , frozen fruits and yogurt

Bagged items like salads and pre-cut greens can be salvaged past their prime. For instance, you can freshen up semi-wilted greens by submerging them in ice water for five to 10 minutes.

Frozen fruits and vegetables keep for eight to 10 months past printed dates. Meanwhile, yogurt when unopened will be okay to eat for one to two weeks past its expiry date. If frozen, the yogurt will also last much longer, up to two months.

How to tell if food has gone bad

Look for discolouration, mould or weird smells and textures to see if food is spoiled

Almost all foods go bad eventually so you need to check to make sure it’s safe to eat before you dig in.

The best way to check if food is still okay to consume is simply by using your senses. Check to see if the food smells or looks off, or if the texture feels unnatural in some way.

In milk and meat, keep an eye for pungent or putrid scents. For fruits and vegetables, look for discolouration or look for mould, which also applies to bread.

For canned foods, look out for dented or bulging cans, if the lid or seal of the can has been broken, or if the contents inside have an unusual colour, smell or foamy liquids on top.

The best practice when it comes to food spoilage is to mark the date when you open or start using any product and then refer to food safety information on sites like Food Safety Agency to find out what you should do next.

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